Standing still often means losing market share, and time to market is getting more and more critical for many projects. Still very few projects will get unlimited resources, even if they are of strategic importance. Most certainly, you will be facing constraints on timing, resources, budget or scope and you will need to make some difficult choices if you want to deliver on time.
When to go agile?
Agile project methodology aims to break through some of the pitfalls of the classic waterfall project approach. All too often a waterfall approach results in bad surprises and ultimately in a delay of a go-live or sometimes even a complete fail. Just because we thought we could predict the future and got it wrong in the end.
Taking an agile approach also means embracing a certain degree of uncertainty (after all, we cannot control the environment or predict everything), while still moving forward and delivering a minimum viable or marketable product or service (MVP) within an acceptable time to market.
So, when is it a good idea to go agile? Ask yourself if you would rather try to achieve 100% of your intended scope in order to please all of your internal and external stakeholders (and ask your CEO for a 6 months delay) or would you rather aim for a partial scope (perhaps even as little as 50% of your intended final scope) , and be out in the market sooner collecting feedback from your target audience for further improvements and making money in the process.
Identifying the cost of delay?
Before heading to the board room, ask yourself: “What is the cost of the delay I would be asking for? If you can’t answer that question, there is no use in starting up the discussion. The cost of delay may be on various levels and degrees of uncertainty: Is it the cost of missed additional sales revenue? Or the cost of maintaining a legacy manual process or software system? Is it an additional customer service cost? The cost of maintaining additional staffing to support some outdated process? Or is it a mix of all the above? Make sure you understand which costs have the most impact on your organization.
If it is by far better to avoid delays and to be out on the market to improve your service or product based on real life experience and feedback from your market, then you can consider embracing an agile approach and start thinking about the scope of your MVP.
How to scope your MVP?
Agile methodology by nature is a value driven approach. The scope of your MVP should not be measured in the volume of features delivered from your wish list, but in the value those features bring to your main target audience and your company. Before heading off to the board room to tell the CEO that you are planning to ignore the wish list from customer service, HR, the legal department and some of your most loyal clients, you better come prepared with specific data and compelling numbers to get the management backing you need for your revised priority listing.
First you need to identify your most valuable target segments. Then you need to understand what matters most to these audience segments and what features are likely to have the most impact. Based on these insights. After that you can start prioritizing and defining the scope of your sprints.
It is time to start taking data & value driven decisions.
To define your segments, you need to dive into any data that is available to you (sales & purchase data, customer service data, online behavior, campaign data …) . You might come up with some surprising new insights! It’s quite possible that only 20% of your existing client’s databases represents 80% of your potential growth.
With some luck, it may turn out you only need 60% of your anticipated scope to be able to provide that new service, which will double their recurring orders. Well done, your business case convinced the board! You now have the full decision power over your MVP, and you can tell some of your internal stakeholders that they will just have to wait some more for their feature list.
Identifying your Happy Flow?
Now that you defined your main segments, have a closer look at their journeys and use cases. Just how similar or different are they? Let’s work out the “Happy flow”. The “mother of all flows” that is adapted to the most impactful use case and aims to remove all possible overhead for our target audience in that specific use case.
Let’s say you are creating a new customer sales funnel for an insurance policy. Where today you have a single “one size fits all” funnel to cover at least 5 completely different contexts or use cases. For example: you are presenting the same flow to singles, couples with children, couples without children, single parents and new newly assembled families.
Guess what? It turns out more than 80% of your database situates itself in only one use-case (seems 80% of your potential audience are singles). As a result, you have a huge drop-off rate in your current flow because you are adding tremendous overhead in your current flow because you are ignoring the family context of 80% of your current audience.
Making this flow contextual and adapted to each specific use-case could significantly simply the user experience, improve conversion rates and have a huge business impact. However, it is not easy to build, and it adds to the complexity and turnaround time of the project. So back to the drawing board and priorities list.
Simplifying product options and features?
All too often product and service features grow somewhat organically over time, sometimes there can be legacy from acquisition of client portfolios from companies your company might have acquired in the past. Some product features may have complex business logic and restrictions. For example: option B is only available for segment X if they selected option A in the previous screen and cannot be combined with option C on this screen, and so on …
While you have a clear view on your data, why should you not question and challenge the relevance of certain complex product offerings and business logic for your MVP, especially if they originate from legacy? Maybe you’ll get the approval to drop some product offerings (at least in a first phase) if the benefits and the simplified sales funnels lead to more overall sales.
There we are! Our MVP is stripped down once more to balance for the additional complexity of being more relevant and adapted to the context of our happy flow. Yes, we may no longer be addressing all use cases from our most valuable segment during the launch of our MVP. Yes, we may not have all the product options we had in the old one-size-fits-all flow, but at least we are out the in the market in time and ahead of the competition. The overall impact of the launch is by far higher than if we would have postponed our go live in order to add all the other use cases and product options to the launch.
The essence of an agile MVP approach
An agile way of working is about embracing a certain degree of uncertainty and constantly re-evaluating your priorities and re-defining your MVP as you go and learn new things throughout the project. It is about challenging your company’s gut feelings & status quo, based on new insights & learnings from data and from listening to your customers & prospects. Re-defining priorities and sizing down on scope as you go, to define an MVP can be quite challenging. It requires a product owner with thorough understanding of the business impacts and ROI of project decisions and good communication & social skills. But as long as you are taking value-based decisions you should be able to get the buy-in you need. An MVP approach lets you balance out the cost of delay, that you would have had while trying to do everything, versus the benefits of being in the market sooner and making money or providing value much faster for your most impactful segments and use cases with a simplified happy flow.
Unsure whether your project is a good fit for an agile MVP approach and if your company culture is ready for an agile approach?
Are you missing a qualified product owner for your project?
Not sure where to begin scoping your MVP and what your potential customers really want? Not getting the insights you need from your data?
Come talk to us, to see how we can help you out and achieve the best possible business impact for you.